Remember those surreal days at the height of the pandemic? Everyone was home: working from home, playing at home, and schooling from home. While the thought may not always evoke the most pleasant of emotions (it was tough!), many people established new, wonderful family connections because they were together every day.
Life has mostly returned to normal now — including its busyness. Conflicting schedules, shuttling kids between after-school sports and activities, and return-to-work commutes can make mornings, meal-times, and bedtimes haphazard.
Days may go by without all family members in the same room together, let alone having a quality discussion. A regularly-scheduled family meeting can help. But how, and where do you start?
Read below for a list of pretty profound family meeting benefits, guidelines for structuring your meeting, example agenda ideas, and other tips to make your time together both fun and productive.
If you’re wondering whether to invest the time in a family meeting, consider some of these benefits:
Create (or restore) a sense of belonging and connection. A regular forum for open communication and full participation is an opportunity to reinforce your family’s values and priorities, celebrate each other’s successes, and instill in your children feelings of togetherness . Family meetings offer a safe place for family members to share ideas and resolve disagreements. In the end, we want kids to feel heard, appreciated, and loved.
Discuss upcoming events and activities. Family meetings can help tame the chaos of everyday life by providing a regular time and place to discuss logistics and details of upcoming events and activities. You can also use the time to plan (and excitedly anticipate!) upcoming vacations.
Review chores and responsibilities. Use your meeting time to discuss the ways your family works together to maintain your home. Perhaps a child is able to take on more involved tasks, and you’re looking for their input or buy-in. Or, if a child is not completing their chores consistently, take the time to understand why. Together, you can talk about how they can more effectively manage their time.
Teach life skills. Participating in a family meeting can impart important skills to kids that will benefit them in their interpersonal relationships, in school and in their eventual work-life. Family meetings help build skills in communication, brainstorming, teamwork, problem solving, and decision making. In family meetings, kids practice being empathic, creative, and resourceful.
Resolve issues. Use your family meeting to discuss issues and work out disagreements. A recent conflict in our home has been our boys’ sibling rivalry. In our family meetings, we’ve discussed the root of the teasing and rough-housing, both of which usually lead to tears. Each of our sons is given time to express their thoughts, and together, we’ve brainstormed how they can improve their relationship. When kids feel they’ve been heard and are part of the solution, they are more likely to buy-in to change.
Have fun together. We love to end our family meeting with a fun activity. See below for ideas! Whenever possible, keep your tone during meetings light. Joke, laugh, and be reminded of how much you enjoy being together.
Each family is unique. How you approach family meetings depends on the ages of your kid(s) and how many you have, your different personalities, varying interests, and anything you struggle with, individually or as a family. While these factors influence how your meetings will play out, most families can find success following these tips:
Determine a regular meeting time and place. Ideally, your meetings are held at the same time and place every week to establish them as routine. Find a time that works for everyone and when people are feeling good — during or after dinnertime, for example. And keep your meetings relatively brief, under 30 minutes.
Set ground rules. During your first meeting, establish key ground rules. The most important rule is to keep it positive! One of your main goals should be for every family member to enjoy gathering each week. We offer ideas for family meeting rules in the last section below.
Assign jobs. Kids love to have ownership and feel needed. Assigned jobs should be fun rather than feel like a chore. Our youngest son, for example, has the job of timekeeper. We also have someone jot down notes each week and another lead the meeting by reading out agenda items.
Follow with a fun activity. One of your goals for a family meeting should be to ensure everyone looks forward to the next one! End each meeting with a fun, agreed-upon activity. You could also choose a theme for each meeting. For example, the country of India could be your theme for the week. You could order in Indian food, have your meeting, and watch the movie “RRR” afterwards.
Other ideas for an ending activity include:
Your agenda can stay the same each week or change, depending on the items to be discussed.
Example items include:
Laying out a few rules for your family meetings will help ensure they’re productive and enjoyable, and that everyone leaves feeling respected and heard. Consider brainstorming together and printing out the list as a reminder each week.
Example rules include:
Don’t fret if your family meetings veer from what’s outlined above. If your discussion slips off-topic or an issue isn’t quickly resolved, that’s okay, too. The mere routine of bringing your family together each week and investing the time to listen, share, and be open with your kids sends a clear message of the enduring strength of your family unit.